Rabies Update

By Rolan Davis, M.S., KSVDL Rabies Laboratory

With the conclusion of what we refer to as ‘bat-season’ in the rabies diagnostic laboratory, it is a good time to look back at lessons-learned over the summer.

Over the course of June, July and August, the rabies laboratory examined 816 specimens from KS and NE with over 500 of those samples being bats with 13 reported positive cases in bats. Human cases of rabies in the United States are most often attributed to variants of rabies virus found within bat populations. The underlying sentiment is that there is a lack of awareness among the general public that bats are a source of rabies virus infections. Veterinarians are often on the front lines of this public health issue and I applaud your efforts to keep your clients informed and their pets vaccinated.

Among the samples tested over the summer months, we unfortunately had to issue results of “Unsuitable” on 17 samples. Again, a majority of these were from bats, either because they had the skull crushed or because the sample was discarded for several days prior to the realization of the importance of rabies diagnostics testing.

If clients contact your clinic about collecting a bat from their property, make sure that they don’t allow themselves to be bitten while capturing the animal. We had several cases where the bat was collected using a towel and the bat bit the victim through what they thought was a protective layer. As well, they should not kill the bat by striking it as this often destroys the tissues we need for diagnosis. Live bats should be euthanized within your clinic using gas anesthetic on a cotton ball or gauze.

Other animal species have been reported as unsuitable as well including dogs, cats and bovines. Samples should be cooled as soon as the need for diagnosis is realized and shipped by courier and not the postal service. Brains from large animals are still occasionally received divided longitudinally, which renders the sample inappropriate for proper rabies diagnosis.

National guidelines require that we are able to test a full cross section of brainstem along with representative portions of the cerebellum, or both lobes of the hippocampus.

If tissues you submit require histopathology following rabies diagnosis, we ask that you submit the whole, fresh brain and our pathologists will formalin fix the appropriate tissues once received.

Rabies data in Kansas and Nebraska can be tracked on our web-site at http://www.ksvdl.org/rabies-laboratory/diagnostic-test/rabies-results/index.html

To view a video on removing bovine brain for rabies submission, please use to following link to view on our YouTube channel:

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